courts of general jurisdiction, Court of Cassation, administrative courts, Public Prosecution, major criminal
Egypt’s highest court, the Supreme Constitutional Court, reviews the constitutionality of laws and regulations, resolves jurisdictional conflicts, settles disputes in cases where different lower courts have made conflicting judgments, and interprets the government’s laws and decrees. Below this court are courts of general jurisdiction and administrative courts.
Courts of general jurisdiction include the Court of Cassation, the courts of appeal, the tribunals of first instance, and the district tribunals. The Court of Cassation has final jurisdiction in criminal and civil cases. The courts of appeal have jurisdiction over one or more of Egypt’s governorates, or administrative divisions, and hear appeals of decisions made by lower courts. The tribunals of first instance are the courts that hear major criminal and civil cases. The district tribunals have jurisdiction over minor criminal and civil cases. The Public Prosecution, headed by an attorney general, serves at all levels of courts of general jurisdiction in all criminal and some civil cases. The administrative courts have jurisdiction over cases involving the government or any of its agencies and may investigate administrative crimes committed by officials or civil servants. Other judicial bodies include the Council of State, which settles administrative disputes and deals with disciplinary cases within the judicial system, and the Supreme Judicial Council, which ensures the judiciary’s independence from outside interference and helps regulate other judicial bodies.
Egypt’s legal system is closely patterned on that of France. A panel of judges, as opposed to a jury, reaches verdicts. Religious courts once operated, with separate systems for Muslims, Christians, and Jews, but they were abolished in 1956. Many Muslims argue that Islamic law, or the Sharia, should be the sole basis for all Egyptian legislation. A constitutional amendment adopted in 1980 recognizes the Sharia as a principal source of Egypt’s laws, but the legal system remains secular in character.
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